There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants than to make your clause erupt in claps and whistles.
Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.
This week’s Study Dude takes notes from It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences by June Casagrande. This book slams most long sentences. Most. Except the book’s own nineteen-word title?and other classics.
Star of Subordinate Clauses
Do you want an A for Christmas? Well, the Study Dude’s got you a gift: secrets of subordinate clauses?from Casagrande’s book.
Read this: When taking a selfie while standing on the Grand Canyon’s edge, if you scream freefalling due to carelessness, you may miss your ride.
Doesn’t that suck? The sentence, that is. You see, your subordinate clauses build up to the dull ending: “you may miss your ride.” When your subordinate clauses reek more excitement than your main clause, go see a psycholinguist.
Or better yet, fix your sentence. Change it to When taking a selfie while standing on the Grand Canyon’s edge as your ride approaches, you might freefall to a final scream.
Save the best for the main clause.
Casagrande gives all kinds of tips for subordinate clauses. Here’s some:
– Subordinate clauses appear like full sentences, but start with words like “because,” “although,” “after,” and “while.” For instance, here’s a subordinate clause, “Because he loved to train ? .” Attach that subordinate clause to an independent clause, and you get, “Because he loved to train, Cuddles ate the fridge bare.”
– (In the last example, we’re not sure whether Cuddles was bare or the fridge was bare, but Cuddles is handsome, so I kept the sentence. Typically, you’d rewrite the sentences: “Cuddles devoured the fridge’s gut.” A metaphor.)
– Put in a strong verb and a clear subject in the main clause.
– Put the strongest action in the main clause; the dullest, the subordinate clause.
– Try not to use the word “while” in place of the word “although.” While is time-based; although is not. It confuses us.
– Try not to use the word “since” for “because.” Since is time-based; because is not.
– The word “than” in comparison leads to confusion. For instance, when you say, “I love you more than Grandma,” spell it out. Say either “I love you more than I love Grandma” or “I love you more than Grandma loves you.”
The Clash of the Relative Clauses
Did you ever write a paper that had long sickly sentences? I did. My thesis.
I crammed in relative clauses like cramming pudding into a Christmas stocking. A stocking that was a used sock: one with a hole in the big-toe. And then I fed it to the prof. But I passed. Not first-class, not second-class, but classless.
Now I write in phrases; incomplete sentences. I call it style. You call it stammer?
But there’s a happy medium. Casagrande gives us rules for relative clauses:
– What’s a relative clause? It starts with a relative pronoun, such as “who,” “whom,” “which,” or “that.” Relative clauses modify nouns. For instance, spot the relative clause here: “Cuddles, who writes fiction, deserves a million-dollar book-contract for Christmas.” Here’s another relative clause: “To pass first class, which is every grad student’s dream, I need a wall-high stack of the Study Dude.” Spot the relative clauses?
(Note: In the examples immediately above, I rewrote the main clauses so that they were more exciting than the relative clauses.)
– Yes, relative clauses are a special type of subordinate clause. Relative clauses are also like adjectives.
– Some relative clauses (called sentential (or connective) relative clauses) can modify not just nouns, but also clauses: “I loved him, which everyone can see.”
– Have no more than one relative clause per sentence. Don’t do like this next sentence: “To pass first class, which is every grad student’s dream, and comes true for undeserving elitists, I need a stack of Study Dudes as tall as the ivory tower.” Okay, so I might get away with more than one relative clause, but typically you want to combine the two relative clauses?or cut one out altogether.
– You can even have what is called a “zero relative” where the relative pronoun is deleted.
For instance, you could say, “The Study Dude is the article I would pay for if given the chance.” In that sentence, you left out the word “that”: “The Study Dude is the article that I would pay for if given the chance.” If you want, you can leave out the word “that” in any relative clause. Up to you. But, zero-relative clauses use up less space. I like ’em.
– While I knew a zero-relative clause could delete the relative pronouns “that” and “whom.” I wasn’t sure, though, whether a zero relative would delete “which” or “who.” But, I found the answer: yes, zero relatives can delete “which” and “who” as well. You see, zero relative clauses happen a lot in sentences starting with “there” or containing “[have] got.” For instance, you could say, “There are the books [which] I never read anyway,” leaving out the “which”. You could also say, “I got the book [which] I never planned to read anyway,” again leaving out the “which.”
– Make your relative clauses brief and few. Don’t swamp your sentences with those nasties. Also, avoid using relative clauses to slip in backstory or history. Confuses us.
So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.
ReferencesCasagrande, June. (2010). It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences. Ten Speed Press.